Managers and educators in early childhood services are developing a growing awareness of the importance of self review in the context of their day-to-day practice. The purpose of self review and how it can be implemented are increasingly recognised and understood as a result of professional development and recent Ministry of Education initiatives such as the publication of Nga Arohaehae Whai Hua: Self-review Guidelines for Early Childhood Education in 2006. However, ERO found considerable variability, both across and within early childhood service types in understanding and implementing self review.
Leadership was an essential component in services where self review was implemented well. Self review was an integral part of services’ operation and managers and educators in leadership positions played a key role in championing review and making sure it happened. Sometimes leadership came from an umbrella organisation which set out expectations in policies and guidelines, and sometimes it came from external advisors or professional development facilitators. What was crucial was how leaders showed their commitment to review and worked with others in the service to encourage, motivate and support a collaborative approach.
The value of professional development in helping managers and educators to improve their capacity and capability in effective self review was evident in this evaluation. However, it was not just engaging in professional development, but more importantly how self review was integrated as part of professional development programmes to build capacity to undertake review and the capability to do it well.
This evaluation highlighted the importance of managers and educators in early childhood services having access to resources and making good use of them to support review practice. It also highlighted the importance of developing specific guidelines and frameworks for self review for their services that included documented procedures, templates for planning reviews and reporting on the findings, and tools for data gathering and analysis. Many services made good use of various publications to inform and guide their self review.
A challenge for services is to sustain ongoing self review by embedding practices that withstand changes in management, staffing and ownership. Other factors affecting the sustainability of self review included the quality of leadership, the extent to which staff worked as a team and the organisational culture of the service. A lack of self review in some of the services could be attributed to such factors.
The relationship between self review undertaken by the service and review that is external to the service is an area for further development. This evaluation found that some services had used the findings of their previous ERO review to inform and guide their self review. In many services with well developed self review, this information was used to complement ERO’s external review.